Pregame Meal: Saturday, June 29th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

In the words of the great Ernie Banks, “Let’s play two seven inning games!” Okay, while that may be a slight alteration of the original quote, the point is the same, as the ValleyCats are Tigers are slated to play a doubleheader tonight, after last night’s rain out. First pitch of Game #1 is scheduled for 5:30, with the start of Game #2 coming roughly 30 minutes after the final out of opener.

-This is the first double header played here at The Joe in quite some time. After an entire slate of games last year that came without a regular season postponement, which at this level, is awfully incredible, you have to go back to August 29th of 2011 to find the last twin-billing the ‘Cats played at home. That day, the ValleyCats lost two games to the Lowell Spinners. Not since August 12th, 2011 vs Hudson Valley has Tri-City swept a double header at home.

-Both teams have the same lineup for Game 1 as they had posted for last night’s game to save me time in order to keep things consistant in terms of playing time. The ‘Cats lineup for Game 2, however, is slightly different from any lineup they’ve sent out this year. For this first time in 2013, Tony Kemp will not be in the lineup for the second game, as Chan Moon will leadoff and play second. The ‘Cats shook up the pitching rotation slightly as well, as the duo of Tanner Bushue/Adrian Houser has been split up, and each one will start a game tonight, with Bushue going in Game 1. This move pushes back Michael Feliz/Andrew Thurman until tomorrow’s game.

-The starter of the second game for the Tigers, Kevin Ziomek, was college teammates at Vanderbilt with Conrad Gregor and Tony Kemp. During BP, I went up to Gregor and asked him for a scouting report on the 2nd round pick of the Tigers this year, and he gave me this: 88-92 with the fastball, hard slider at 78, and solid changeup. He also added that he “doesn’t field his position well, or at least he doesn’t like to”, so maybe look for a bunt here or there while Ziomek is on the mound, which might not be for more than an inning.

-The roster for the Tigers is a family-oriented one. Ben Verlander, Game 1′s first basemen, has a brother pitching in the major leagues, Justin, that you might be familiar with. Patrick Leyland, an infielder for Connecticut, is hoping to one day play with Father Jim up in Detroit as a manager-player combination a la Cal Ripken Sr. and Cal Ripken Jr. While he doesn’t have any relatives (that we know of) affilaited with the Tigers organization, another player of note for the Tigers is Jonathan Crawford, a pitcher who was Detroit’s 1st round selection this year.

-Interestingly, Dan Gulbransen was out early today taking ground balls at first base. From our knowledge, Gulbransen has never played first base, but with only two players on the roster (Conrad Gregor and Michael Martinez) who can play first, the Astros instructors currently in town decided to throw Dan out there and see what he can do. No word if there are any current plans to play Dan over at first any time soon. Gulbransen, on an un-related note, enters this double-header on a six-game hitting streak. He is in both lineups for Ed Romero tonight.

-Tanner Bushue shut down the Tigers the last time he threw against them on June 23rd, so we’ll see if he can replicate that success again. Four scoreless innings earned Tanner the win in a game that was 0-0 going into the 10th inning, before the ‘Cats scored five to win.

-Mark Appel Watch 2013: A slight update to pass along. An article posted on Astros.com reports that Houston GM Jeff Luhnow said the first overall pick in this year’s draft is “expected to remain in Florida a couple of more weeks before reporting to Tri-City.” What exactly that means, who knows. But, it is the first piece of news we’ve really gotten about Appel since his press conference, so take it for what it’s worth.

-Batting Practice Hero: Ernesto Genoves hit a loooong home run to the deepest part of the park today, left-center field. “Geno” has shown occasional pop in BP this year, and the shot he drove today is the longest for any right-handed hitter in batting practice this year. The Venezuelan catcher starts behind the plate in the first game tonight.

Lineup(s)

Game 1

2B Tony Kemp

CF D’Andre Toney

1B Conrad Gregor

LF Dan Gulbransen

DH Michael Martinez

RF Ronnie Mitchell

C Ernesto Genoves

3B Ryan Dineen

SS Chan Moon

RHP Tanner Bushue

Game 2

2B Chan Moon

CF James Ramsay

DH Conrad Gregor

RF Dan Gulbransen

1B Michael Martinez

C Luis Alvarez

LF Jon Kemmer

3B Ryan Dineen

SS Thomas Lindauer

RHP Adrian Houser

Pregame Meal: Friday, June 28th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

A very happy Friday evening, ‘Cats fans! Hope you’re dry wherever you’re reading this, as here at The Joe, the tarp is currently on the field. However, we are still planning to play this first of three versus the Connecticut Tigers, as the ValleyCats will try to improve upon their already league-best record of 9-2. The Tigers enter the game tonight of 3-7, 5.5 games behind Tri-City.

-The last two nights at the stadium have felt like Groundhogs Day, as for the third straight night, Dan Gulbransen and Ronnie Mitchell more or less carried the team, with some additional help from James Ramsay once again. Those three combined to go a ridiculous 9-for-14 with a HR (from Ramsey) and seven RBI. Since Tuesday, they are 20-for-38 (.526) with 5 HR and 17 RBI. Yes, you read that right.

-Got a chance to talk to Gulbransen before the game tonight about a few things; being in Tri-City again, his unreal start, comparing and contrasting this year’s team to last year’s team, to name a few. Dan is one of the best guys to talk to on this team, because you’ll always great candid and real answers. He said that he’s matured a lot as a baseball player since the end of last year, and that is certainly evident in his start. Entering tonight’s ball game, Gulbransen ranks second in the league witha a .395 average.

-From the category of “Trivial Statistics That Are Guaranteed Not To Hold Up The Rest Of the Year”, after last night’s win, Tri-City is now 9-0 when they score at least one run, 7-0 when they score first, 7-0 when they homer, 5-0 when they either play errorless ball OR commit 3+ errors in a game (my personal favorite), and lastly, 2-0 on Wednesdays. #NumbersAreFun

-Mark Appel Watch 2013: Still no update. Sorry.

-No BP today because of the weather, so no Batting Practice Hero Award to hand out tonight. Sorry, folks.

Lineup

2B Tony Kemp

CF D’Andre Toney

1B Conrad Gregor

LF Dan Gulbransen

DH Michael Martinez

RF Ronnie Mitchell

C Ernesto Genoves

3B Ryan Dineen

SS Chan Moon

RHP Tanner Bushue

Nightly Recap: June 27th

On Thursday night, the ValleyCats finished up their quick two-game series with the Red-Sox affiliate, Lowell Spinners. It was Softball Night at “The Joe”, as the ValleyCats honored softball teams from all around the region, especially those that played in the Deanna Rivers 518 Memorial Softball All-Star Game earlier this month. Deanna’s dad, Brian, threw out the ceremonial first pitch before last night’s game. We thank all the teams that came out last night as we celebrated the “Girls of Summer!”

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We were also joined by our game sponsor, Trustco Bank! It was great to see a number of Trustco employees at the ballpark, as well as the official Trustco mascot, Trusty! Trusty joined us for a ceremonial first pitch, as he uncorked a strike to the plate.

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On the field, it was another offensive explosion for the ‘Cats. Outfielders Dan Gulbransen, James Ramsay, and Ronnie Mitchell combined to go 9-for-14 with seven RBI! In the last three games, those three have driven in 17 runs, and not surprisingly, the ‘Cats are 3-0 in those games. Tri-City improved to 9-2 last night, good for 1st place in the Stedler Division and the best mark in all of the New York-Penn League.

James Ramsay rounds third after his 1st inning HR

James Ramsay rounds third after his 1st inning HR

Dan Gulbransen connects for one of his three hits last night

Dan Gulbransen connects for one of his three hits last night

Ronnie Mitchell gets an on-field shower from teammate Michael Martinez after being named the Player of the Game

Ronnie Mitchell gets an on-field shower from teammate Michael Martinez after being named the Player of the Game

After the final out, it was time for our Price Chopper Fireworks show! It was perhaps the best one this year, as the fans in the park enjoyed a fantastic display.

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Lastly, we want to extend a big thank you to the Brickman Grounds Crew Staff here at The Joe, who worked tirelessly throughout the day, preparing the field for the rain which came in the middle of last night’s game. However, thanks to their dedication, we made it through all nine innings with no stoppages! Thank you to all those who helped out!

The ‘Cats and Connecticut Tigers begin a three-game series tonight at 7:00 pm. It’s Youth Baseball Night at The Joe, as we will celebrate local teams, in addition to commemorate the field renovation projects the organization participated in during the off-season, such as the “4 in 24″ project. Tickets are still available, so we hope to see you tonight!

 

Pregame Meal: Thursday, June 27th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

Happy Thursday evening ‘Cats fans! You’ve almost made it to the weekend, so as a reward, I’ve prepared an extra special Pregame Meal before the ValleyCats and Spinners wrap up their mini 2-game series tonight at 7:00 pm. Forecast at the start of the day seemed pretty ominous, but luckily the rain has held off (for now) and it appears that we might just get this one in. Here’s everything you need to know before tonight’s first pitch:

-There’s carrying a team to victory, and then there’s what Dan Gulbransen and Ronnie Mitchell have done the last two games. Combined between Tuesday’s victory in Connecticut and last night’s 9-4 victory over the Spinners, those two have gone 9-for-17, with 2 HR and 8 RBI. Not bad. Not bad at all.

-Congrats to James Ramsay for connecting for his first pro home run last night in the 8th inning. Ramsay had been slumping badly coming into last night’s action, but responded nicely with two hits and 3 RBI. I asked Ramsay if he had any intention of correcting his misspelled name on the back of his jersey (Ramsey vs. Ramsay), but he seemed to be okay with it if he kept on hitting like he did last night. Only baseball players….

-Interesting discussion around the batting cages before the game today. Ed Romero was talking to some of his players about running and what counts they should go on. Romero made it very clear that he never ever will instruct a player of his to run on a 2-2 count. However, I was talking to Conrad Gregor afterwards and he said that at Vanderbilt, they ran on 2-2 pitches all the time because they tend to be off-speed. Just something to look out for going forward.

-Thanks to a Hudson Valley loss last night, the ‘Cats now have the best record in the New York-Penn League. If you’ll recall, Tri-City had the best record in the NYPL for virtually all of last year, before losing the lead towards the end of the season to the Renegades. Clearly there is a lot of baseball to played in the 2013 season, but it is certainly encouraging to see the way the team has come together so quickly.

-One roster move of note. Catcher Jake Rodriguez, the 19th overall pick from Oregon State, is officially on the roster now. Rodriguez is known as a defensive wiz. He is joining late because the Beavers were in the College World Series, which Rodriguez said was an unforgettable experience. That’s the thing about the CWS: anyone who played in that will tell you it is the unquestioned highlight of their baseball career.

-Batting Practice Hero: No longballs in BP today, but we’re gonna go ahead and hand out today’s BPH Award to D’Andre Toney. In his first round of BP, Toney broke his bat on his last swing, much to the chagrin and enjoyment of Ed Romero. After his manager got on him for that, Toney nearly hit one out to the deepest part of the ballpark in left center field.

-Evan Grills will take the mound at the start of the game for the ‘Cats, with Kevin Comer on in relief at some point. The ‘Cats are 2-0 this year when those two appear, and up against very tough Lowell hurler Jamie Callahan tonight, it will speak to the toughness of Comer and Grills if the ‘Cats can sweep away the Spinners tonight. Callahan shut down the ValleyCat lineup back on June 21st in Lowell. Callahan, the 2nd round pick of the Sawx in 2012, is just 18 (!!!!) years old.

Lineup

2B Tony Kemp

CF James Ramsay

1B Conrad Gregor

LF Dan Gulbransen

DH Michael Martinez

RF Ronnie Mitchell

3B Ryan Dineen

C Jake Rodriguez

SS Thomas Lindauer

LHP Evan Grills

Nightly Recap: June 26th

The ‘Cats returned home on Wednesday night to take on the Lowell Spinners to kick off a five game homestand. Our friends from Helmbold’s were on hand to help celebrate all things hot dog and 100 years in Troy! Prior to the game, ValleyCats Vice President/General Manager, Rick Murphy, presented Mark, Ross, and Seth Shuket of Helmbold’s with a special certificate to commemorate their longstanding presence in the Capital Region community.

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Also joining us on the field for a very special ceremonial first pitch was eleven year old Nas Williams, a guest of the Starlight Foundation. Nas suffers from Bannayan-Riley-Ruvalcaba Syndrome and tonight completed a stadium tour that included a stop at Gillette Stadium and a special visit from Tom Brady.

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Helmbold’s put on a hot dog eating contest with three heats taking place next to the Brown’s Brewing stand on the first base concourse. The ValleyCats own Jess Kaszeta established a personal best improving on her performance from 2011. Ultimately she was bested by Gentleman Joe Manchetti, who defended his ValleyCats title with an impressive display of eating on the home dugout in the finals. Special thanks to Sean & Richie from WGNA who were our guest MC’s for the contest!

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The hot dog theme continued on the field as Ketchup, Mustard, and Relish interfered with the Sports Clips Mayor’s Race and transformed an Elvis classic into “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Hot Dog” during the 5th Inning Drag.

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Old friend Spicy Dijon Mustard returned from a long sabbatical with some killer sideburns to help steal a victory in tonight’s main event…the Helmbold’s Hot Dog Race!

Between the lines, the ‘Cats won their second game in a row with a 9-4 victory over the Red Sox-affiliate Lowell Spinners. Dan Gulbransen and James Ramsay both homered in last night’s action, and Ronnie Mitchell added a clutch, two-out double in the 5th to put the ValleyCats on top 6-3. Those three combined for seven RBI, as the team improved to 8-2 overall, and 4-0 at The Joe! The ‘Cats and Spinners are back at it tonight at 7:00 for the final game of a quick two-game set. It’s Softball Night at The Joe, as we honor softball teams from all around the area, including teams from the Deanna Rivera 518 Memorial Softball All-Star Game. After the final out, we’ll have our fantastic Price Chopper Fireworks display!

Pregame Meal: Wednesday, June 26th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

Welcome back, ‘Cats fans! After a very successful road trip, on which the team went 4-2, the ValleyCats return back home for a five-game homestand. Tonight, the Lowell Spinners are in town for the start of a quick two-game set. It’s 50 cent hot dog night at The Joe, so here are my two cents before tonight’s 7:00 first pitch:

-Interesting road trip for the ‘Cats. In each game they won, there was one player in the lineup that really stood out, but no one was truly hot over the course of the week. The team showed great resiliency, winning two games in extras, including one that they trailed 5-0 as late as the 8th. Last night’s standout, Ronnie Mitchell, had his first professional home run, as well as his first pro triple, to lead the squad to victory and clinch a third straight series victory to begin the season. You’ll hear from Mitchell on the TCValleyCats.com pre-game show starting at 6:45.

-Some roster moves were made while the team was on the road. Gone are RHP’s Christian Garcia and Edison Frias, and in is LHP Chris Cotton (14th round pick out of LSU in this year’s draft), RHP Richard Rodriguez (last played for Quad Cities) and IF Adam Nelubowich (18th round out of Washington State in this year’s draft). I can’t ever recall the ValleyCats having as many players on the roster as they do now, 32. You should see the locker room-the team is literally out of available lockers. Offers some great opportunities for team bonding, I suppose.

-As I mentioned earlier, the team is 3-for-3 in series wins this year. That was one of the greatest attributes of the 2012 ValleyCats; they seemed to never lose a series. Obviously, and you don’t need to be a baseball genius to realize this, if you continually win series, your record is going to be pretty darn solid. Well, the ‘Cats find themselves 7-2 and atop the Stedler Division. With 11 games in a row coming against Stedler Division teams (in addition to the first 9 they’ve played this year), if Tri-City can continue this trend, they can get themselves a nice cushion in the early going.

-Still no Mark Appel update. Sorry.

-Batting Practice Hero: I’m aware this is a definite cop-out, but today’s BPH award goes to all of the second group, consisting of Jon Kemmer, Ronnie Mitchell, Ryan Dineen, Ernesto Genoves, and Chan Moon. Between the five of them, they hit 9 home runs: 4 from Kemmer, 4 from Mitchell, and one from Dineen. It was as impressive of a group of BP as I’ve seen in quite some time. Kemmer hit the longest of the bunch, launching a Russ Steinhorn offering over the second row of signage down the right field line, up onto the hill.

-One last nugget to pass along: 2012 ValleyCat Preston Tucker was promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi. To say Tucker was tearing it up in Lancaster would be a severe understatement. He was leading the MiLB with 74 RBI, and “only’ had 15 HR. Preston is the only player in Pregame Meal History to have his name is retired as a Batting Practice Hero, so here’s a round of congratulations to the former Florida Gator.

Lineup

2B Tony Kemp

CF James Ramsay

1B Conrad Gregor

DH Dan Gulbransen

C Ernesto Genoves

LF Jon Kemmer

RF Ronnie Mitchell

3B Ryan Dineen

SS Chan Moon

LHP Randall Fant

Pregame Meal-Road Edition: Thursday, June 20th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

Good late afternoon/early evening ValleyCats fans! The team is currently getting ready to play the first of a six-game homestand that will begin in Lowell and end in Connecticut. While I’m not on the road with the team for this trip, there is certainly a lot to recap from the recently-completed sweep at home of the Vermont Lake Monsters. For those interested in following along with the live stream of tonight’s road contest versus the Spinners, go to the MiLB Gameday Audio page and click on the Lowell Spinners. First pitch is at 7:05 pm

-The 3-0 start for Tri-City is the first since 2005. Even last year, which ended with a franchise-record 51 wins, began for the ‘Cats with a 1-2 mark. Ed Romero said in his post-game remarks that the key so far has been aggressiveness at the plate, clutch hittng, solid defense and good pitching. Interestingly enough, this hot start is the first time the ‘Cats is actually the first time they’ve began the season perfect more than one game into the schedule since 2005 as well. Remember folks, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.

-My suspicion before Opening Night was that the offense would wind up leading this team in 2013, and three games through the 76-game season, I’m looking pretty good with that prediction. The ValleyCats right now lead the New York-Penn League with 26 runs scored, 4 home runs, and a solid .330 batting average. The key in each game for Tri-City versus Vermont was the multi-run inning. The ‘Cats had three multi-run innings in all three games, nine in total, which resulted in them trailing for only half an inning the entire series. Granted it’s an extremely small sample size (small enough that it’s almost not even worth it to mention), but after three games, there are nine players for the team hitting at least .385. Snapshot or not, there are a lot of hitters that look like they’re starting the year hot. While the team’s numbers with RISP weren’t fantastic (.244 during the sweep), the offense struck quickly and often. It also helped that Vermont couldn’t catch the ball the whole series. Highlighted by some really crucial mishaps in the Tuesday night 9-6 ValleyCat win, the Lake Monsters showed an inability to hit, field, or pitch when needed to, a combination that isn’t exactly conducive to winning a lot of games.

-While the offense led the way, the pitching more than held it’s own during the homestand. Outside of a Vermont 4-run 8th inning on Tuesday that turned a laugher into a save situation, the ‘Cats pitching held Vermont to just 7 runs in the remaining 26 innings, which comes out to a 2.42 ERA. All three starters, Evan Grills, Tanner Bushue, and Michael Feliz, went at least 4 innings with no more than 2 runs allowed. The other halves of the duo starting rotation, Kevin Comer, Adrian Houser, and Andrew Walter, all flashed solid potential, save Houser’s rough 8th on Tuesday night. Feliz, out of all these hurlers, was the strongest, and really surprised me. In only five innings, the Dominican righty notched nine K’s, and certainly had more gas in the tank, but per Houston pitch count limits, was taken out. For the time being, the team has a lights-out closer in Chia-Jen Lo, who is currently on a rehab stint with Tri-City. His ninth inning on Tuesday was a thing of beauty, and frankly, one of the better innings of relief you will see a pitcher throw at this level all year. Lo’s talent has already fooled hitters at higher levels in his career, so that was no surprise.

-Highlight of the homestand was probably Christian Garcia’s appearance in the 9th inning of Wednesday night’s victory. The 2009 graduate of Spa Catholic, the Gansevoort, NY native was the 29th round selection of the Astros in 2012, and was assigned to Tri-City to begin this year. With the local media dying to see Garcia throw before the team began its road trip, Ed Romero gave Garcia the ball to close out the 8-2 lead for the ‘Cats, and the righty did just that, striking out Lake Monsters 2B Chris Wolfe to end it. Garcia received a nice hand from what was a super-home crowd for him during his post-game on-field interview with ValleyCats Media Relations Manager, Chris Chenes.

-It was on the road in 2012 that the ValleyCats played their best baseball, but to expect the same level of play away from The Joe two years in a row might be a bit much. Most teams in the NYPL struggle mightily away from their home stadiums, for whatever reason. The fact that the 2012 Tri-City squad didn’t lose a game on the road for the span of a month last year was super rare for a team comprised mostly of guys just a few months away from college. To see the ’13 ValleyCats come anywhere close to that club record would mean great things potentially on the horizon for this Ed Romero-led roster.

-One day later, and not much of an update on Mark Appel Watch 2013, which is closer than you may think to being the new name for this blog. For those who may have missed it, at his press conference in Houston yesterday, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said that he would like to see Appel begin his pro career with a stop here in Tri-City. While that is certainly not an official confirmation (so no, we do not have an estimate of a date), all signs appear to be pointing in the direction of Appel in Troy sometime within the upcoming weeks. Stay tuned for more, as we will pass along any possible information we receive when we get it.

-The rotation for the Lowell series is as follows: RHP Edison Frias tonight, LHP Randall Fant tomorrow night, and then the piggybacking duo of Kevin Comer and Evan Grills on Saturday

Nightly Recap: June 19th

It was “Wayback Wednesday” at The Joe last night, as we took a time machine back to the glorious decade of the 1980′s! It was great to see some of our fans and staff come to the park is outfits that pre-date many of our current ValleyCats players! Outside the gate before the game, we had an 80′s tribute band perform some of the most classic songs from the decade.

Southpaw rocks out with our 80's Tribute band before the game

Southpaw rocks out with our 80′s Tribute band before the game

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It was a big night on the field for the ValleyCats, as the team completed a season-opening series sweep of the Vermont Lake Monsters! Michael Feliz, in his ValleyCats debut, struck out 9 Vermont hitters in his 5 very strong innings of work. In both the 1st and 4th innings, Feliz struck out all three Lake Monster hitters, a first for ValleyCat pitchers this year. On offense, CF D’Andre Toney led the way. After connecting for a sacrifice fly in the 2nd inning to put the team on top 2-0, the Conway, Arkansas native launched a long three-run home run into the Tri-City bullpen in left field, to pad the lead to 6-1. Toney finished the game 2-for-4 with the longball and 4 RBI.

Michael Feliz dominated Wednesday night, picking up his first win of the season

Michael Feliz dominated Wednesday night, picking up his first win of the season

D'Andre Toney rounds third after hitting his first HR of the season in the 4th inning to give the 'Cats a 6-1 lead

D’Andre Toney rounds third after hitting his first HR of the season in the 4th inning to give the ‘Cats a 6-1 lead

Toney and Media Relations Manager Chris Chenes on the field after the 'Cats 8-2 victory

Toney and Media Relations Manager Chris Chenes on the field after the ‘Cats 8-2 victory

However, it was Spa Catholic graduate and Gansevoort, NY native Christian Garcia that stole the show in the 9th inning. Called on by Ed Romero to close out the 8-2 ValleyCats lead, Garcia, who’s return home has been the focal point of much media attention, came in to get the final three outs of the game in his first appearance back home in the Capital District. Below is Garcia on the mound and in a post-game on-field interview with our Media Relations Manager, Chris Chenes.

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The 3-0 start for the ValleyCats is their first since 2005. The ‘Cats and Hudson Valley Renegades, coincidentally the two teams that fought for last year’s NYPL championship, are the only teams to be 3-0 in the league. The ValleyCats lead the league in runs scored, home runs, as well as batting average. The early returns on this team are very srong, as the ‘Cats try to defend their 2012 Stedler Division Championship. The team will now go on the road for six games, three against the Lowell Spinners and three against the Connecticut Tigers.

After the game ended, it was time for the second Price Chopper Fireworks display of the season! Fans thoroughly enjoyed the 25 Silver Ball Launch as well as the fantastic fireworks, as the ‘Cats wrapped up a very successful first homestand of the 2013 season.

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The ‘Cats return home to The Joe on June 26th against the Red Sox affiliate, the Lowell Spinners. The 26th is 50-cent Hot Dog Night Presented by Helmbold’s Hot Dogs, and the next night is another fireworks night as well as Softball Night presented by Trustco Bank. The Tigers follow the Spinners into town for a three-game series, which features a Scout Sleepover and the always-popular Hall of Fame Night! Tickets still available for the entire 5-game homestand by calling 518-629-CATS, coming to the ValleyCats box office, or going online to tcvalleycats.com

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Pregame Meal: Wednesday, June 19th

By Matt Appel (@mattappel)

A good Wednesday evening to everyone out there in cyber-space reading today’s Pregame Meal! Big news around the stadium today, but we’ll get to that in a second. Tonight, the ValleyCats will go for the three-game sweep of the Vermont Lake Monsters, after taking last night’s game by a final of 9-6. The ValleyCats haven’t started 2-0 since 2005, so a 3-0 start would be unprecedented in recent history as well. Also, it’s 80′s Night here at The Joe, so hopefully we’re in store for a “Thriller” (too far?). As to that big news I was talking about…….:

-Today in Houston, at #1 overall pick Mark Appel’s (for the first, but certainly not last time, there is no relation) press conference, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said that he “would like” to see Appel begin his professional career here with the ValleyCats at some point in the near future. Now, we don’t have any sort of a time table for this, but it does sound like there is a pretty good chance that the first overall pick in this year’s draft will be at The Joe at some point this summer. Exciting stuff, folks. Look out for a venn diagram comparing and contrasting myself and Mark.

-How about Tony Kemp, huh? After getting three hits in his first game, Kemp, who hit one home run in college, hit one deep to right last night that gave the ‘Cats a 2-0 lead at the time. He has shown, so far, to be more than reliable at the plate. And we haven’t even really seen him use his best tool yet: his legs. Look for big things from Kemp moving forward.

-A few roster additions today to pass along. RHP Andrew Thurman, who was the 2nd round pick of the Astros this year, was officially added to the roster after signing earlier this week. I talked to him before the game, and he said he should appear in his first game sometime on the upcoming road trip. Tri-City heads off to Lowell for three games, and then Connecticut for three more before returning home on the 26th. The other roster change is the addition of RHP Charles Basford, acquired in a trade with the Yankees late last night. Basford had appeared in one game for the Staten Island Yankees this year. He will come out the ‘pen for Ed Romero.

-As is typical early in the year, the Astros send rover instructors to all of the minor league teams to work out with the players. In fact, former MLBer Adam Everett was here for the first two games of the series. It always fascinates me that the one thing they drill the most into the hitters during BP is the practice of bunting. They will make the same player repeat bunting drill after bunting drill if they aren’t executing correctly. Goes to show you that no matter how high up you make it, the fundamentals still count.

-Batting Practice Hero: 1B Conrad Gregor unleashed some mammoth home runs during his round today. We haven’t see that from Conrad yet, so it will be interesting to see if that is just “5′o clock power” as the Astros instructors were saying today. Gregor isn’t known for his power, but based on what he displayed today, he certainly has some in him

Tonight’s Lineup

2B Tony Kemp

SS Jose Fernandez

1B Conrad Gregor

C Ernesto Genoves

LF Jon Kemmer

DH Michael Martinez

RF Dan Gulbransen

CF D’Andre Toney

3B Chan Moon

RHP Michael Feliz

Nightly Recap: June 18th

Last night marked the ValleyCats first-ever Strike Out Violence Night at “The Joe.” This was the culmination of an off-season program that saw SouthPaw and friends visit a number of local schools to perform their Strike Out Bullying Skit. This campaign is part of a partnership with BlueShield of Northeastern New York and highlighted the importance of including everyone despite our differences.

Schools that were visited had an opportunity to participate in a poster contest with the winners receiving tickets courtesy of the Sexual Assault & Crime Victims Assistance Program at Samaritan Hospital – a member of St. Peter’s Health Partners. All students in attendance were encouraged to sign the ValleyCats Peace Pledge that will be displayed on the outfield wall all season long.
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Congratulations to School 14 of Troy, the winner of this contest! Their poster, and several others were on display at “The Joe” this evening. Students of School 14 also joined Sammy Baseball, SouthPaw, Rowdy, and Ribbie to lead the stadium in the ValleyCats Peace Pledge.
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This game marked our first Tunes for Tuesday of the year, which featured two different groups, both high school bands. The Underscores followed Cass and Emma as spectacular performers to celebrate the end of classes.
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On the field, it was another 9-run performance for the ‘Cats as they beat Vermont for a second straight night. Tony Kemp led the way once again for Tri-City, blasting his first professional home run to lead off the 3rd inning. Through two games, Kemp is hitting an incredible .571. Dan Gulbransen also added a longball that gave the ‘Cats the lead in the bottom of the 5th.
Tony Kemp mid-swing during his first professional HR that came in the 3rd inning of Tuesday night's win

Tony Kemp mid-swing during his first professional HR that came in the 3rd inning of Tuesday night’s win

Dan Gulbransen before his HR in the 5th that gave the 'Cats the lead

Dan Gulbransen before his HR in the 5th that gave the ‘Cats the lead

Ryan Dineen bobbles a pop-up before grabbing it in Tuesday's game

Ryan Dineen bobbles a pop-up before grabbing it in Tuesday’s game

Jon Kemmer greets James Ramsay after he scores in the 2nd inning on the 'Cats 9-6 win

Jon Kemmer greets James Ramsay after he scores in the 2nd inning on the ‘Cats 9-6 win

The ValleyCats and Lake Monsters will go at it again Wednesday night at 7:00 as the ‘Cats go for the sweep to wrap up this three-game series. It’s Wayback Wednesday at The Joe, as we celebrate the 1980′s! After the game, we’ll have our second Price Chopper Fireworks show, as well as the 25 Silver Ball Launch. Hope to see many of you tonight!
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Pregame Meal: Tuesday, June 18th

By Matt Appel

Good Tuesday evening ‘Cats fans! In case you missed it, the ValleyCats opened their season last night with an offense-driven 9-3 win over Vermont. 15 Tri-City hits led the way, as the home team plated runs in 6 of their 8 offensive innings. Before these teams go at it again tonight, here’s what you need to know:

 

-Two roster transactions of note for Tri-City before tonight’s game. IF Michael Martinez, most recently with Greeneville, has been assigned to the ValleyCats. The same goes for C Jon Carnahan, who appeared last with the GCL Astros. Both will be on the bench to start Tuesday night’s game.

-The tandem starting rotation that we discussed yesterday worked out pretty well for the ‘Cats last night, as Evan Grills and Kevin Comer combined to throw eight innings of one-run ball. Comer received the win after throwing a very impressive final four innings of the game, allowing just a single in the ninth. Tonight’s pair will feature Tanner Bushue, a 2009 2nd round pick of Houston, and Adrian Houser, a 2011 2nd rounder of the ‘Stros. Bushue will start the game.

-Got a chance to speak around the BP cage today with Astros Director of Player Development Quinton McCracken. That name might ring familiar for some fans out there, as McCracken played for parts of 12 MLB seasons from the mid 90′s to mid-2000s (isn’t it amazing as a society, we still haven’t figured out what to call last decade?). This is his first year on the job, and he said that so far, he loves it. He enjoys working individually with all the talent the Astros currently have in their minor league systems.

-Tony Kemp and Jon Kemmer will have to do a lot to improve upon their debuts last night. The duo went 7-8 with 4 RBI, one of which came in the form of a 2nd inning HR from Kemmer, who you will hear from on the tcvalleycats.com pregame today. Kemmer’s story is a very interesting one, as he did not play at a Division-1 school in college, but still finds himself playing with some of the D1 elites now. Both him and Kemp should be impact guys for the ‘Cats in 2013. By the way, the highlight of last night for me was Conrad Gregor bringing home his college teammate Tony Kemp in their first inning of pro ball together with a single. Kemp scored and immediately pointed to Gregor. How cool is that.

-Batting Practice Hero: There were only two homers hit in BP today, and both belonged to Ronnie Mitchell, so we’ll give it to him. Mitchell, a product of Dallas Baptist, went 0-4 yesterday, and is back in the lineup today

 

Tonight’s Lineup

2B Tony Kemp

RF D’Andre Toney

1B Conrad Gregor

DH Dan Gulbransen

CF James Ramsay

C Luis Alvarez

LF Jon Kemmer

3B Ryan Dineen

SS Thomas Lindauer

RHP Tanner Bushue

Opening Night Recap

The 2013 season got under way at The Joe last night as the ValleyCats knocked off the Vermont Lake Monsters by a score of 9-3! It was a great night both on and off the field at the ballpark, as a sold-out crowd of 4, 889 was treated to a fun night of entertainment, and also an offensive explosion (followed by a firework explosion) on the field!

The excitement started before the game, as our promo team and greeted all of our fans outside the gate. There were face painters, blow-up games, and everyones favorite mascots. 20130617_tc_vs_vermont-43 20130617_tc_vs_vermont-40

As is ValleyCats Home Opener tradition, ValleyCats Owner and President Bill Gladstone addressed the sellout crowd before the game to welcome fans to the 12th season of baseball here in Troy at Joseph L. Bruno stadium. We also had two very special first pitches before the “real” first pitch. Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia was at the ballpark to throw the ceremonial first pitch, and was joined by his mascot likeness out on the field. We are honored that Mayor Rosamilia was able to join us for this special event. Cuppy, the Dunkin’ Donuts mascot, also uncorked a ceremonial toss in the pre-game proceedings on the field.

Cuppy winds up on the mound

Cuppy winds up on the mound

ValleyCats President Bill Gladstone addresses the crowd

ValleyCats President Bill Gladstone addresses the crowd

Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch with the "other" Mayor Rosamilia and Charlie

Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia after throwing out the ceremonial first pitch with the “other” Mayor Rosamilia and Charlie

Mayor Rosamilia’s big night only got better than his mascot representation took 1st place in our first Mayor’s Race in 2013 sponsored by SportClips Haircuts, accompanied by their larger-than-life referee mascot, who will be present at all ‘Cats homes games this season.

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A few hours before game time, a nasty wind and rain storm came through the ball park, and left parts of The Joe knocked down and in need of repair. BIG THANKS to the field crew and all who helped out to restore the park to its usual pristine condition so that we could open our gates to all of the fans who came to the game!

As for the game itself, the ValleyCats were playing in the first game under new manager Ed Romero. Romero played in the MLB for four different teams in a 12-year career from 1977 to 1990. Romero twice reached the World Series, playing for the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers and 1986 Red Sox. 2013 marks Romero’s 21st year as a coach in professional baseball. The star of the game was new ‘Cat Jon Kemmer, who was drafted this year by the Astros. In his first professional at-bat, Kemmer hit a line drive home run to right field, and had three more hits in the game! Kemmer finished 4-for-4 with a HR, as well as 2 RBI.

LF Jon Kemmer right after making contact with what would turn out to be his first career hit-a home run

LF Jon Kemmer right after making contact with what would turn out to be his first career hit-a home run

Manager Ed Romero gets ready to take the field

Manager Ed Romero gets ready to take the field

Once the game ended, it was time for the 25 Silver Ball Launch as well as Price Chopper Fireworks! It’s hard to think of two better ways to celebrate a ValleyCats victory.

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In every way possible, it was a great Opening Night at The Joe. We were very happy to see our faithful season ticket holders, as well all other fans that decided to make it out to the ballpark Monday night. If Game 1 is any indication, this promises to be another memorable season both on and off the field for the ValleyCats team, organization, and most importantly, it’s great fans!

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Pregame Meal: Opening Day Edition

By Matt Appel

A very happy Opening Day ‘Cats fans! At long last, the 2013 ValleyCats season is set to begin in just a matter of minutes. We are very pleased to bring back last year’s “Pregame Meal” segment of ‘Cats Corner to you Tri-City faithful. Here’s anything and everything you’ll need to know before the first pitch of this 2013 season comes in at 7:05:

-While the seven All-Stars from last year’s team will certainly be missed, there is still a great deal of talent on this year’s squad. The headliners on the current roster are this year’s 4th and 5th round picks of the Astros, 1B Conrad Gregor and 2B Tony Kemp, who were teammates for the last three seasons at Vanderbilt. Kemp was this year’s SEC Player of the Year, after hitting .391 with 34 stolen bases. Gregor stole 21 bases himself and had a .440 OBP for the Commodores. It will prove to be one of the biggest story lines of this year, as the right side of the infield for Vandy has traveled north and relocated in Troy, NY

-The pitching rotation for the ‘Cats, at least for the time being, is an unorthodox one to say the least. The Astros’ organization is trying out a system of “piggybacking” their starters; what this basically means is that the starters are teamed together in tandems. Tonight’s starter is LHP Evan Grills, a pitcher from Whitby, Ontario, in his 4th season with the Astros organization. His “tandem” hurler is Kevin Comer, who was a first round pick of the Blue Jays (57th) overall in 2011. The starters will throw no more than 3 innings under this system, according to new pitching coach Doug White, and then at some point in the game, the other starter will throw no more than 3 innings, but at least 1, given their pitch count doesn’t exceed whatever threshold has been determined. Unorthodox, yes, but the point is to give the team a look at as many pitchers as they can without damaging the pitchers coming from college who have already thrown many innings this year.

-In 2012, for those of you new to the program, the ValleyCats captured their 4th Stedler Division Championship after winning a team record 51 games. In the previous three years post-Division Championship, the ‘Cats failed to make the playoffs all three times. That is certainly a trend that new manager Ed Romero will try to buck in 2013. Romero has made it very clear so far that his managing style centers around the idea of aggressiveness. He told me to expect this team to run often, take the extra base; basically anything to put the pressure on the opposing defense. For those fans unfamiliar with Romero, he was a utility infielder from the late 1970′s till 1990, and played on many of the more memorable playoff teams from the 1980′s, namely the 1982 Milwaukee Brewers and the 1986 Boston Red Sox.

-Those of you from the Capital District might recognize the name Christian Garcia. Garcia was a 2009 graduate of Saratoga Central Catholic High School, where he pitched and played first, and will come out of the bullpen for Tri-City this year. His place on the roster has already been a topic of great attention by the local media, and it will be interesting to see how Garcia thrives back at home, where he says his some of his friends and family haven’t seen him pitch since graduating high school.

-For a brief time this afternoon, this game appeared to be in great danger of not being played. At around 3:30, the closest thing I have ever seen to a monsoon came through the area, tossing everything in its path aside. This included the tarp and the grounds crew. If any of you have ever seen clips on ESPN of Major League grounds crews losing complete control of the tarp during a wind/rain storm, that is exactly what is resembled. I have to tell you, it’s not nearly as much fun witnessing it from the field as it is from the comfort of my TV.

-Because of the storm, no on-field batting practice was held today. However, that does not mean we can’t hand out 2013′s first Batting Practice Hero award. From what I have seen over the past few days in BP, Jon Kemmer will be hitting for a great deal of power here at The Joe. Kemmer played at NAIA Brewton Parker College, and slugged at a .717 clip this year, so power is certainly part of his game. He might need to close up his stance to avoid racking up strikeouts, but when he gets a hold of one, the second row of signage here at The Joe will be the likely resting spot for the ball.

Tonight’s Lineup

2B Tony Kemp

SS Jose Fernandez

CF James Ramsay

1B Conrad Gregor

C Ernesto Genoves

RF Ronnie Mitchell

DH Dan Gulbransen

LF Jon Kemmer

3B Ryan Dineen

LHP Evan Grills

“A baseball game is simply a nervous breakdown divided into nine innings”

-Earl Wilson

…And here we go!

For the past nine months, the ValleyCats front office staff has been working tirelessly to prepare for the 2013 season. As the 7 o’clock hour approaches, and once the first pitch is thrown, all of that hard work will finally pay off, and the fans can enjoy the fun & excitement!

Here’s what’s new at “The Joe” in 2013:

As you enter the stadium, you will now be greeted with “Welcome to The Joe” “Enjoy the Show!”

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On the wall before you enter, we’ve also installed a “From ‘The Joe’ to ‘The Show’” board, listing all of the former ValleyCats who have reached Major League Baseball. (26 and counting!)

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One thing you should won’t be able to miss is the new National Grid charging station wall just outside of our team store. Now, fans will be able to charge their phones right at the stadium, for free.

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Immediately behind home plate is our freshly designed Fan Service Center, with the slogan “We’re here to help!” This is the stop for any fan that has a question about anything at the stadium, or wants to sign up for our raffles.

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New in 2013, is our “Healthy Zone” food cart presented by BlueShield of Northeastern New York. Like their slogan goes, “Healthy Changes Everything!” and we wanted to make sure that stand holds true to that.

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This stand will serve apple nachos, salads & wraps, hummus w/ pretzels, fruit & yogurt parfait, greek yogurt and trail mix. The stand will be located down the first base concourse. Click here for our full concession guide.

Sticking with the food theme, Lupo will be hanging out at the stadium, as the face of Lupos Spiedies.

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Be sure to grab some Lupos chicken spiedies at Buddy’s on the first base concourse.

A new food item that will be featured at Buddy’s is the “Double Play Burger.” This is a burger with pulled pork and cheese, and it’s delicious!

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Other updates around the stadium include new MVP Health Care signage on the stairways from the stands up to the concourse.

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Noble Gas is now our sponsor of the NYPL standings:

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Back in 2013 is our partnership with the Rensselaer County R.I.D.E. program (Rensselaer County Invites Designated Drivers Everyday), DeCrescente Distributors and Black & White Taxi. Designated drivers will be provided free non-alcoholic drinks, and fans who are unable to drive themselves home will be provided a $15 voucher to get them home safely.

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Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino announces the partnership at “The Joe.”

We’re really excited about our freshened up Mayors Race, now presented by SportsClips. With help from our production assistant Brendon Phillips, here is the introduction you will see here at the stadium all year before each night’s Mayor’s Race:

The official SportsClips mascot will be involved each night, and this is one cool dude!

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New in 2013, the ‘Cats have partnered with the New York Lottery for a mid-inning contest modeled after the TV show “Minute to Win It.” It’s sure to provide some great laughs throughout the season!

Also new in 2013, the Tri-City ValleyCats have partnered with First Niagara on a season-long community initiative which known as the “Community Spotlight.” During each of the ValleyCats 38 home games, a different non-profit organization will be highlighted with in-stadium exposure throughout the night.

This season at “The Joe,” if you download the Dunkin’ Donuts app on your smartphone or tablet, you will receive a Dunkin’ Donuts coupon. Just show the app to a ValleyCats staff member at the Fan Service Center.

Also, each bottom of the 5th inning is the “Dunkin’ Donuts 5th Inning.” If a ValleyCats batter hits a home run, one lucky fan will receive free coffee for a year!

Finally, if you haven’t already seen it, here is our unforgettable commercial starring Charlie, the Office Bat Boy. With the season quickly approaching, we thought Charlie should get some preseason work in the office.

We’ll see YOU at “The Joe” in 2013!!

Tomorrow’s Just A Day Away

By Matt Appel

Looking for a gift for Dad on this Father’s Day? Well, in addition to that lovely tie or brand new razor, you can remind him that the ValleyCats’ 2013 season begins tomorrow. That should do the trick.

In just a little over 24 hours from now, the reigning Stedler Division Champions will kick off their 2013 campaign at Joseph L. Bruno stadium against the Vermont Lake Monsters. The players have been working out, hitting, throwing, and getting to know each other since they started arriving in Troy on Thursday. While only two players are returning from last year’s franchise-best 51 win team (3B Ryan Dineen and OF Dan Gulbransen), there is plenty of reason to believe that the talent on this year’s squad will be plentiful.

Offensively, it appears that speed will be the name of the game for the ‘Cats in 2013. Much like last year’s team that led the New York-Penn League in stolen bases, many members of the projected lineup for Tri-City have excellent speed tools. No one better fits this description than 2B Tony Kemp. The 2013 SEC Player of the Year, Kemp was taken as the 5th round selection of Houston in this year’s MLB Draft. In addition to hitting .391 (!!!) this past year for Vanderbilt, the 5’6″ Kemp stole 34 bases. While not a home run threat, Kemp has gap power that should play well here at The Joe.

In what is one of the bigger story lines for this team early on, and will probably remain that way for the entire season, Kemp will be joined in Tri-City by his right-side-of-the-infield counterpart, Vandy 1B Conrad Gregor. The 4th round pick of the Astros this year, Gregor is no slouch in the speed department himself. Gregor swiped 21 bags this past year for the 51-9 Commodores, and in terms of getting on-base, there were few better players in the nation. The Carmel, IN native finished the year with a .440 OBP, and nearly walked twice as often as he struck out (54:29). It will be interesting to see if Kemp and Gregor can replicate the college-teammate success started last year by Brady Rodgers and Andrew Aplin, who played together at ASU.

The team takes a knee on the infield to listen to instructions from manager Ed Romero

The team takes a knee on the infield to listen to instructions from manager Ed Romero

The outfielders on this ValleyCat team, at least from what we have seen in batting practice, could be major parts of the hitting attack. James Ramsay (7th round, USF), Jon Kemmer (21st round, Brewton Parker College), and Ronnie Mitchell (38th round, Dallas Baptist) will all be making their professional debuts here in Tri-City. Ramsay, a CF at USF where he attended college, hit .337 with an OPS of .858 this past season and was named to the All-Big East team. Ramsay’s speed was apparent both at the plate, with 12 SB, and in the field, where he was one of the best defensive outfielders in all of Division-1 according to advanced fielding statistics. A 1-2 combination of Kemp and Ramsay at the top of the ValleyCat lineup could work out rather handsomely for new manager Ed Romero and his hitting coach, Russ Steinhorn. Kemmer played at NAIA Brewton Parker College, and by watching his batting practice so far, he can hit ‘em as far as anyone. A line drive hitter with a ton of raw power, Kemmer slugged at a .717 mark (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) for the Barons, mashing 12 HR, 13 2B, and even legging out a triple, all in only 45 games. Kemmer also drew more free passes than punchouts, but might have to close up his stance to avoid more K’s at this level. As for Mitchell, his power has also been on fully display so far in the few sessions of BP I’ve watched live. An exaggerated leg kick is a key component to Mitchell’s swing, and even though he only hit 4 HR in 60 games this year for Dallas Baptist, he might find his longball stroke here for the ‘Cats. Mitchell was teammates at Dallas Baptist with 2012 ValleyCat Catfish Elkins.

Much of the success of last year’s team was due to great pitching, and it is yet to be seen if this team can replicate that staff’s performance, but there are certainly many hurlers on the ’13 ‘Cats roster capable of dominating hitters at this level. The headliners on this staff are Kevin Comer and Adrian Houser, a 1st rounder and 2nd rounder, respectively. Comer was taken in the 1st round in 2011 by the Blue Jays, and was dealt to the Astros as a player to be named later in the J.A. Happ trade in 2012. Comer has a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a power curve. Houser was the 2nd round pick of the Astros in the 2011 draft, and projects to have a plus fastball and plus curveball as he matures. Both should have no problem getting hitters out this summer.

The ‘Cats have a number of pitchers on this roster that will be throwing in their first professional games this season. Pat Christensen (27th round, La Salle), Randall Fant (29th round, Arkansas), Albert Minnis (18th round, Wichita State), Zach Morton (32nd round, Northwestern) and Kyle Westwood (13th round, University of North Florida) were all drafted less than two weeks ago, and find themselves in the middle of what promises to be a very competitive pitching staff, under the guidance of new pitching coach Doug White.

The player who has received the most media attention so far is RHP Christian Garcia, who in from the Capital District. A 2009 graduate of Saratoga Central Catholic High School, Garcia was drafted by the Astros in the 29th round of the 2012 draft, and spent last year in Greeneville. Garcia, from Gansevoort, NY, is expected to come out of the bullpen for the ValleyCats.

One player flying under the radar to keep an eye on is IF Chan Moon, born and raised in Seoul, South Korea. Moon signed as an international free agent with Houston in 2009, and has made his living as a slick-fielding infielder who plays primarily at short, but might get looks at third and even first for Tri-City. Moon, who is a lanky 6’0″, 160, has shown good line-drive capabilities in BP, and could very valuable as a utility guy on this team.

Tomorrow’s starter for Ed Romero will be 4th year-pitcher Evan Grills, a lefthander from Whitby, Ontario. We will give you a full scouting report of Grills in tomorrow’s 2013 inaugural “Pregame Meal.” A very happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there, and with ValleyCat baseball officially back tomorrow, how can it not be?

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